Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925)

Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925)

“Lady Windermere faced the grave problem of seating her dinner guests…”

A socially outcast woman (Irene Rich) blackmails Lady Windermere’s husband (Bert Lytell) in exchange for not revealing to Lady Windermere (May McAvoy) that she is actually her mother; meanwhile, rakish Lord Darlington (Ronald Colman) has designs on Lady Windermere; Lady Windermere suspects her husband of having an affair with Mrs. Erlynne (Rich); and Mrs. Erlynne hopes to be able to re-enter society by marrying eligible bachelor Lord Augustus (Edward Martindel).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Blackmail
  • Ernst Lubitsch Films
  • Mistaken Identities
  • Morality Police
  • Play Adaptations
  • Ronald Colman Films
  • Silent Films
  • Social Climbers

It was brave of Ernst Lubitsch to attempt to translate Oscar Wilde’s first play into a silent film, given that — by virtue of the format — he was unable to incorporate much of Wilde’s lauded verbal repartee. The resulting movie shows evidence of Lubitsch’s visual creativity, but is ultimately not entirely successful, primarily because there’s little evidence of Wilde’s trademark wit: while …Fan is nominally a romantic comedy, it comes across here as more of a melodramatic soaper (a la Olive Higgins Prouty’s Stella Dallas). Guest-star Ronald Colman (on loan from Samuel Goldwyn) is given little to do as Lord Darlington, whose infatuation with Lady Windermere functions merely as a plot contrivance; the other actors are serviceable in their respective roles, but not particularly noteworthy. What lingers longest in one’s memory of the film are Lubitsch’s directorial “touches” — as when he strategically uses his camera to show the characters’ isolation from one another, or to enhance several of the story’s classic misunderstandings.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Creative direction by Lubitsch

  • Sophie Wachner’s glamorous gowns

Must See?
No, though Lubitsch fans will certainly be curious to check it out. Listed as a film with historical importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925)

  1. First viewing.

    Not must-see, and the assessment sums things up in accord with all of my thoughts, actually.

    Wilde’s play does become quite a skeletal thing here – leaving us the slightest of soaps. Lubitsch’s famous ‘touch’ is also on very minimal display. However, often in lieu of dialogue, there are many long pauses of deep contemplative feeling…making the film slow-paced indeed.

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